Three Crucial Yoga Poses—and Why They Work
Michele Loew of Yoga Space deconstructs three familiar asana shapes, and what they can do for your whole body (and mind).
↑ Eka Pada Rajakapotasana prep (Modified Pigeon)
This intense hip opener stretches the glutes, the outer hip rotators, and the piriformis muscle. A powerful stress reducer, it’s also a pose of surrender that is calming to the nervous system. It supports the adrenals, which are important for a strong immune system, and brings blood and energy to the pelvis, which encourages a healthy reproductive system. Yogis also believe the second chakra, which is associated with work, relationships, and creativity, is housed in the pelvic region—so while opening the hips, this pose can also help release fear and frustration.
← Sirsasana (Headstand)
This advanced pose improves mental power, focus, and concentration. “A natural caffeine,” Loew says; she recommends practicing it in the morning. But the pose also stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands and is said to be anti-aging, reducing the effects of gravity. It also promotes healthy lung tissue, which can relieve colds, coughs, and even bad breath. It also quite literally turns your world upside down, jostling you out of stuck patterns and keeping you open to new possibilities.
Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1) →
This classic pose aligns and lengthens the psoas, a hip flexor muscle. The psoas attaches to all five lumbar vertebrae, and often causes back pain if tight or misaligned. The overhead position of the arms has been shown to increase testosterone levels while reducing levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Of course, the pose also extends the spine and stretches the quadriceps and abdominals, as well as the arms and shoulders.